Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Watch Out, World5: Abundance Defined

For me, anyway, just what does "abundance" look like?
  • At least 10% (tithe) of my gross to my church.
  • Contribute at least 10% or more into savings.
  • Pay my bills immediately upon receipt.
Simple, right? WRONG!

Realization: I've just committed 20% of my income ... wait! Uncle Sam gets 20-30% of my income so now I'm expected to budget my living expenses (including my MORTGAGE) off of half my gross income!?!?!

Can that be right?

Right! Prepare to be amazed.

I remember reading Matthew 5-7 often referred to as the "Sermon on the Mount." In the heart of this sermon (Matt. 6:19-24) is the following words:
19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy,[c] your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy,[d] your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
And at the end (Matt. 7:24-29) Jesus' closing words are about the two men who built their homes: one built on sand the other built on bedrock.  As you know, the storms came and the house built on the shifting sand fell down while the house built on rock stood solid.

I really took this passage to heart. I committed to discipline myself to seek God's kingdom first. His righteousness. His wisdom. I knew this was the only way we would see His abundance and overcome our indebtedness, begin to save and reach our retirement goal of independent living.

Fast forward about 20 years and BAM! God delivered. I had no idea that we could reach all our financial goals but God's words in Scripture kept telling me it was true.

We learned commitment, diligence, faith, trust and so much more as we walked out our budgeting and worked to be as faithful o God as He was to us.

We tithed. We saved. We contributed to above-and-beyond offerings. And, all by the grace and mercy of God, we have now reached our financial goals.

That is my passion. That is what drives me. Service to a generous and loving creator.

So, that's why I'm writing this blog and I wholeheartedly welcome comments, questions, and engagement as I continue to post my thoughts, what I've learned and hopefully you will be encouraged and benefit from my own experiences.

So up next in my topics: what I've learned through my 2-year-old grandson's battle against cancer.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Watch Out, World4: My Revelation

This exercise peels your "why" down to the very center.
Heart issues are tough to diagnose.

I'd like to take a little sidebar moment here to look at the underlying "why" of our predicament.

I read about a great exercise, recently, to help a person discover their deepest motivation behind a habit, a new commitment, or just about any endeavor.

It's quite simple. You answer the question: "I would like to do _________ because _________." Then take your "because" blank move it to the "do" blank and answer that over and over again.

So, to example this I will use my heart issue:
  • I would like to be debt free because I'm tired of watching the bills get bigger.
  • I am tired of watching the bills get bigger because I can't save any money.
  • I can't save any money because I keep spending everything I earn.
  • I keep spending everything I earn because I want more than I need.
  • I want more than I need because I want to be happy.
  • I want to be happy because I am a Christian.
  • I am a Christian because I trusted Jesus to take away my sin.
  • I trusted Jesus to take away my sin because I know as a sinner I'm doomed to life away from my Creator.
  • Wait! How the heck did I arrive there?
You can see how this little exercise can help you flange out some very deep and meaningful details.

So, in filling out this exercise the deceived state I was living in became evident: I was attempting to buy my own happiness out of selfishness and a sense of "I deserve ...."

Yet, here I am wanting to model the life Jesus lived. You see, He knew how our Creator had designed us so I believe one of the reasons God became a man was to show us "this is how I designed you." By following Jesus' example I can really live rightly. Right?

Well, have you ever observed that Jesus never mentioned His happiness? Have you ever noticed how Jesus' physical discomfort was most often satisfied by doing God's work and filling His life with selflessness?

I think He had to have been very hungry when he met the Samaritan woman at the well. The disciples had gone into town to get food and he rested at the well. After his encounter with this woman and helping her see her need for God in her life, the disciples returned. Jesus let them know He was no longer hungry and they wondered if someone had already fed him! (See John 4 - it's one of my favorite stories.) 

So - in looking at this model Jesus lived, I discovered "deservedness" was never on His mind. In fact, He wouldn't even defend His reputation. Just take a look at His encounter before Pontius Pilate and Herod before He was crucified. He didn't open His mouth at all to defend Himself.

Now what? 

How do I get this money issue under control? How do I model good stewardship as God asks us to in His Word? I should be living a life evidencing the abundance God has for those who will follow Him. How would I define that "abundance"?

Ooooo - good question!

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Way behind - but better late than never?

NOTE: I labeled these so I would know
 my original intent.
I hope that doesn't express doubt
for even getting started!
I just wonder how many times we've all reenergized and re-upped at the beginning of a year?

Well, I'm guilty of another start up. Today, I started a new project: The Traveling Afghan.

I love to crochet and to knit. And my favorite resource for yarns and patterns in LionBrands.com. They came out with this Traveling Afghan project. Someone organized 49 designers all over the world to create a 10"x10" square, add it to the afghan, and ship it on to the next designer.

When finished we will have a nice afghan.

I couldn't resist. Every two weeks I can finish a 10x10 square, right?

So next there was the kit: Crochet? Knit?

OK. I crochet just fine. Easy, right? But knitting? This offers an intermediate skill level for both so I decided it is time to improve my knitting abilities.


THEN, what color. That was so hard but I landed on blue denim for the crocheting and golden for the knitting.

The first square has been posted and I do have the right sized needles and hook to begin so I'm stepping out!

Let the craftwork begin!

Monday, November 26, 2018

Watch Out, World3: I Need a Lifesaver

My first step was to budget and follow our money in a way that made sense to us. I talked to many folks about how they managed their finances. Including my parents who lived debt-free their entire life with one tiny exception: the occasional XX-days-same-as-cash and their mortgage.

Now, they had six children. Took us on family vacations. Put all of us through additional education after our high school graduations. And retired quite comfortably.

I wanted that legacy to continue.

So, what budget tool would work for me?

We had to diminish our debt so we tackled it by adapting our own methods.

Debt Reduction Ain't Easy

It took two tries at debt-consolidation to realize that was not the answer. In both cases we ended up with the loan to consolidate and added more debt onto our credit cards. No reduction happening, yet.

Plus, I had an impulse buy issue. 

You know those handy-dandy items located by the checkout lanes? Those were made for me. I would stand there and the candy would look delicious. Then the kitchen gadget became something that I could use. Then I'd see ...

Well, something from those stands always ended up in my cart before I got to the register.

Impulse is so difficult to control. And I've never found an Impulse-Buyer-Anonymous group. 

Then, there are those mail-order catalogs. And, today, the online shopping makes it even tougher to manage.

Fortunately, I decided if I didn't have the cash in my pocket, I couldn't buy the object. Debit cards were not available just yet so it was a matter of either writing a check or paying cash. I hate writing checks so cash was the answer. If I didn't have the cash, I couldn't buy it.

That helped. Sort of. I mean, I still had a credit card in my wallet - just in case...

The spiral into that debt hole was deep, sharp and swift. Made me think of a whirlpool or eddy in a deep, deep, swift-running river.

Throw Me a Lifesaver!

And I don't mean the candy.

I had to do some serious soul searching to find what was triggering the impulse purchases. It quickly became evident I had a perspective issue and a heart issue .

First, my mother dropped a realization nugget in my lap: she simply made the comment "You know, when your dad and I started out we didn't have all the appliances and conveniences we do today. I don't see why kids believe they are supposed to have all these things when they get started."

You could have knocked me over with a feather when I realized I was trying to create for my home exactly what I'd become accustomed to when I left home. Yet, I didn't have the income and long-time growth my parents had built on.

So the sense of entitlement had to go. That was easy. Done. Gone. I could adjust that.

Then, in Larry Burkett's books (I now found a Bible study on financial management Larry wrote) I learned over 70% of Jesus' teachings dealt with material goods. You see, where our money goes is a great MRI to reveal our priorities. 

Clearly, I had a priority of myself, my kids, my spouse, my ... my ... my. Acknowledgement was the first step but how to overcome ME!?!?

Well, I knew that Jesus said "where your treasure is, there will your heart be also". So, I began down a path of changing my treasure's location.

I had no idea what I was in for.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Watch Out, World2: Reality Bites

So in our 30s we had little to no savings; 5-figure debt; two boys we wanted to send to college and then we needed to think about retirement. And our income was pretty small - I recall about $45k for our household.

By now, I was a Primerica Financial Services representative (2nd job). Through Primerica I brokered mutual funds and talked to people about liquidating their whole / universal life insurance policies, buying term insurance and, with the money left over, save into mutual funds sheltered in an IRA for their future.

We called this "buy term and invest the difference." Conversations covered how much money is enough for life insurance and how much is enough for retirement.

Determining the life insurance piece was easy.
Here's how:
Think of the insurance as income-replacement.
To your current salary, add a zero. That's the amount of life insurance you need.
Example: Someone making a $25,000 annual salary would need $250,000 of life insurance.
During those 20 years two things can happen: you have to use the insurance or you don't. If you don't have to use it, you save money for 20 years creating a savings equal to the amount of the policy. After 20 years you do not renew because you are now self-insured. If you have to use it, you put the balance in a high-yield money market and pay yourself a salary.
Looking into a crystal ball to answer the question "How much is enough for retirement?" was easier than I'd thought.
Here's how:
First answer the question, "If you could retire today, how much annual income would you like to have?" $100,000 was our answer.
Well, we applied the average inflation rate (3.6%) and found out we needed to have $1,250,000 to retire. OH CRAP! We'd have to have over 1 million dollars?!?!?
We crunched some more numbers and determined if we saved $345 a month (more than $10 a day) for the next 30 years AND got 12% interest, we could actually reach that goal. Hurray for compound interest!
Lost? Well, in the 1980s the Internet didn't offer so many resources. But here's my personal favorite - Chris Hogan's R:IQ Retirement Calculator if you'd like to know your own retirement number. If you want to find your own calculator simply search "retirement calculator" in your favorite search engine.
Our response?

We went out to eat and charged it on our credit card.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Watch out, World

Since my last post over a year ago, I've accomplished some crazy things. At least, crazy for me.

I have completed two classes through two different organizations that empower me to help answer investment questions during formal training at Transformational Investing Workshops by Phil Town and I have completed my Financial Master Coach certification through Ramsey Solutions.

If you had told past me as a young mother 30 or so years ago that I would be helping people with their financial goals, I probably would have laughed (possibly hysterically).

The next several blogs will review this little journey. Hopefully, it will add to your life.

Looking Back

Our financial picture wasn't very good. We didn't have $1,000 saved in anything. No IRA. But we had credit cards. A lovely assortment of colorful plastic that were well used and "helped" us get from one paycheck to the next.

This is the cover of the book I read.
However, Crown Ministries still has
copies for sale. 
Then, in my church library I stumbled across a book: Debt-Free Living by Larry Burkett.

As best as I can recall it was a bit of a depressing read at first. Larry (no, I don't know Mr. Burkett, but that's how I refer to most people who have mentored me indirectly or personally) shared three case studies:
  1. A young couple with minimal income (no kids), 
  2. A seasoned couple with huge income and out-of-control spending, 
  3. A businessman facing bankruptcy.
All their situations were different forms of bondage to the debt they'd amassed. But each decided to face their debt.

I stuck with the book and each had a happy ending either due to their diligent efforts, faithful discipline and, in one case, grace and mercy from a bank who saw the commitment to pay it all back.

It was inspiring and convicting. My husband and I knew we had to do something and I began to read.

And read.

And read some more.

Next step? Reality Bites

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Melody and Harmony

In my last post, I mentioned the writing of Christmas Redemption and its presentation Dec. 10 and 11 at Aspen Park Baptist Church in Broken Arrow, OK.

After we'd completed most of the writing, I was honored to lead a Bible study with the women of our church. The name is Fight Like a Girl and was created by Lisa Bevere.

In this study, Lisa reminds women about the amazing creation we are. She points out how important we are to God because He needed a solution to Adam's loneliness when He created Eve.

She had a voice that was hidden inside Adam. God drew that voice out of Adam's side and made it so it could be heard together with Adam's.

Teaching about the partnership and cooperation created in the garden of Eden was pretty cool. But even more amazing was living it out.

In 1975 God brought my husband and me together and we married two-and-a-half years later.

As I stated in my previous post, my husband is a melody man. He also loves words. He has written music since he was a teenager. The melodies he creates are really good. And I say that as a musician with years of theory and practice behind me.

His melodies meet the technical criteria for interest. But then you add in the natural talent God created in him and you get some beautiful tunes.

Now, I went to college and actually declared music as my major. So God trained me in harmony. Theory. Composition.

Then over the past 35+ years He began to shape my life. He humbled me. He taught me how to love. He taught me how to get out of His way and allow Him to touch people through the music that flowed from my hands. Then He kept walking me up my life's path higher and higher.

So, back to the Bible study, God has used my life with my husband to illustrate the helpmate role of woman for man.

For me creating Christmas Redemption was thrilling walk with God. It's the culmination of my life that He has shaped to bring me to "such a time as this" (see Esther, chapter 4)

I know one of the reasons God created me was to be my husband's helpmate to create the music people heard that Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 10 and 11, 2016.

Being able to see this was a privilege I hope to pass on to others around me.

We each were designed by a Creator Who desires for us to discover why He made us as we are.
  • Why He placed us in the family He did. 
  • Why He gifted us with our own mix of abilities. 
  • Why He brought circumstances into our lives to mold us. Teach us.
I encourage anyone who reads this post to persevere in discovering why The Creator designed you as He did. He promises to show you if you keep on asking, keep on seeking and keep on knocking. (Luke 11)